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David Fowler, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 June 24

ms-number: 765374.2

abstract: Fowler writes regarding the progress of his mission.

handwriting: Formal handwriting is clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light-to-moderate staining and wear. The central vertical crease is sharp, however, and beginning to separate. The watermark is visible on two recto.

ink: Dark-brown.

noteworthy: An unknown editor, possibly Wheelock, has written above-line corrections throughout the document; these corrections appear to be contemporary, so they have been included in the transcription. The trailer, however, appears to be 19th-century and so has not been transcribed. When Fowler refers to the place Oneida, he is likely referring to the town of Kanawalohale. To set this designation in context, the placename "Onoyda" has been tagged as Oneida in the dateline, and the reference to "this Castle" has been tagged as Kanawalohale.


Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.



Honoured and Rev. Sir
I now write you a few Lines just
to inform you that I am well at present, and have been soever
since I left your house, blessed be God for his goodness to me. —
— I am well contented here as long as I am in such great business.
My Scholars learn very well; I have put eleven into a, b, [illegible][guess: absr:]
I have three more that will go to that Place this week; and some have
got to the sixth Page. — It is ten thousand Pities they can't
keep together, they are always often going about to get their provision
My Father one of the Chiefs at in whose house I keep told me, he believed some of the In­
dians would starve to Death this Summer; some of them have almost
consumed all their Corn already.
I came too late this Spring. I could not put anything
in the Ground, I hope I shall next Year —. I believe I shall
get persuade all these the Men in this Castle at least the most of them to labour
next Year: They begin to see now that they would live better
if they cultivate their Lands than they do now by Hunting and fish­
ing: These men are the laziest Crew I ever saw in all my Days:
their Women will get up early in the morning and be pounding
corn for breakfast and they the men lie sleeping till the Victuals is al
most ready and as soon as the Breakfast is over the Women take
up their Axes and Hoes and way to the Fields and leave their Chil­
dren with the Men to tend; you would may see half a Dozen walking
about with Children upon their Backs: a lazy and sordid Wretches,
but they are to be pitied not frowned
I have been miserably of for an Interpreter
I cant can say but very little to them; I hope by next Spring I
shall be my own Interpreter.
It is very hard to live here without the other bone; I now am ob
liged to wash, mend, my cloths cook all my Victuals and wash all the things I
use, which is exceeding hard; I can’t go into a field as I should
do if I had a Cook here.
I shant be able to employ my vacant Hours in improving up Lands as I should do
I received a Letter from Mr. Kirtland last
Sabbath wherein he informs me that but he did not inform me how he was, he only gave
an account how he was treated by Indians that accompanied
him up. The Indians left him with all his heavy Pack; he had
the most fatiguing Journey this Time he ever had before: —
He designs to come down to get provision and if he dont, he will
eat no Bread till Indian harvest: and his Meat; nearly rotten
having no Salt. — “He has swapped away the little pony
which I did not know before.”
“I believe, I shall come down latter end of Au
gust but I shall tarry a little while with you. I design to
hasten up here again; I shall make this Place my Home as
long as I live. — Give my kind Respects to Mrs Wheelock,
Love to your Children and to all the Scholars.”
And may the blessings of Heaven rest on you, etc. etc.
and continue you a long and rich blessing in the World, may the Hea­
then in the wilderness feel the goodness of thy Labours — May you have
double measure of the Spirit of God, and fill your Heart with
Love of God and compassion to poor perishing Souls. — and
may the Giver of all things, give Strength and Health,
Wisdom and Authority to rule govern and teach
those who are committed to your Care in Fear of
the Lord: which is the sincere Prayer of him who desires
the Continuance of your Prayers.
your affectionate,
though unworthy Pupil,

David Fowler.
to Rev. Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
Blank page.Not transcribed.
Fowler, David

David Fowler was Jacob Fowler's older brother, Samson Occom's brother-in-law, and an important leader of the Brothertown Tribe. He came to Moor's in 1759, at age 24, and studied there until 1765. While at school, he accompanied Occom on a mission to the Six Nations in 1761. He was licensed as a school master in the 1765 mass graduation, and immediately went to the Six Nations to keep school, first at Oneida and then at Kanawalohale. Fowler saw himself as very close to Wheelock, but their relationship fragmented over the course of Fowler's mission, primarily because Wheelock wrote back to Kirkland, with whom Fowler clashed, but not to Fowler, and because Wheelock refused to reimburse Fowler for some expenses on his mission (767667.4 provides the details most clearly). Fowler went on to teach school at Montauk, and played a major role in negotiations with the Oneidas for the lands that became Brothertown. He was among the first wave of immigrants to that town, and held several important posts there until his death in 1807.

Fowler, Hannah (née Garrett)

Hannah Fowler (née Garrett) was a Pequot woman who married David Fowler. The Garrett family boasted sachems and interpreters and was influential among the Stonington Pequots. Hannah grew up among the Charlestown Narragansetts, as her parents had affiliated with that tribe (a not-uncommon occurrence, given the close ties between the groups, especially in the realm of Christian spirituality). At Charlestown, Hannah received her basic education and was recruited for Moor’s Indian Charity School. She studied at the school from 1763 until she married David Fowler in 1766. Hannah and David’s marriage is especially noteworthy because it is the only instance where a female Moor’s student married a Native American missionary from Moor’s and joined him on missions — which had been Wheelock’s intent in admitting Native American women in the first place. Hannah assisted David on his mission to Kanawalohale from the time of their marriage in 1766 until his departure for Montauk in 1767. In 1783, the pair moved to Brothertown, where their house was the town center. Both Fowlers proved influential in town affairs, and their children and grandchildren also played a central role in the town’s administration.

Wheelock, Eleazar

Eleazar Wheelock was a New Light Congregationalist minister who founded Dartmouth College. He was born into a very typical Congregationalist family, and began studying at Yale in 1729, where he fell in with the emerging New Light clique. The evangelical network that he built in college propelled him to fame as an itinerant minister during the First Great Awakening and gave him many of the contacts that he later drew on to support his charity school for Native Americans. Wheelock’s time as an itinerant minister indirectly brought about his charity school. When the Colony of Connecticut retroactively punished itinerant preaching in 1743, Wheelock was among those who lost his salary. Thus, in 1743, he began operating a grammar school to support himself. He was joined that December by Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, who sought out an education in hopes of becoming a teacher among his people. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to train Native Americans as missionaries. To that end, he opened Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754 (where he continued to train Anglo-American students who paid their own way as well as students who functionally indentured themselves to Wheelock as missionaries in exchange for an education). Between 1754 and 1769, when he relocated to New Hampshire, Wheelock trained approximately 60 male and female Native American students from nearby Algonquian tribes and from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of central New York. At the same time, he navigated the complicated politics of missionary societies by setting up his own board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, although he continued to feud with the Boston Board of the SSPCK and the London Commissioners in Boston (more colloquially called the New England Company). By the late 1760s, Wheelock had become disillusioned with the idea of Native American education. He was increasingly convinced that educating Native Americans was futile (several of his students had failed to conform to his confusing and contradictory standards), and, in late 1768, he lost his connection to the Haudenosaunee. With his inclination and ability to sponsor Native American missionaries largely depleted, Wheelock sought instead to fulfill his ultimate ambition of obtaining a charter and opening a college, which he did in 1769. To fund this new enterprise, Wheelock drew on the £12,000 that Samson Occom had raised for Moor’s Indian Charity School during a two-and-a-half year tour of Great Britain (1765 to 1768). Much of this money went towards clearing land and erecting buildings in New Hampshire for the Charity School’s relocation — infrastructure that also happened to benefit Dartmouth. Many of Wheelock’s contemporaries were outraged by what they saw as misuse of the money, as it was clear that Dartmouth College was not intended for Indians and that Moor’s had become a side project. Although Wheelock tried to maintain at least some commitment to Native American education by recruiting students from Canadian communities, the move did a great deal of damage to his public image. The last decade of Wheelock’s life was not easy. In addition to the problems of trying to set up a college far away from any Anglo-American urban center, Wheelock experienced the loss of relationships with two of his most famous and successful students, Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland (an Anglo-American protégé). He also went into debt for Dartmouth College, especially after the fund raised in Britain was exhausted.

Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

Wheelock, Mary (née Brinsmead)

Mary Wheelock was born Mary Brinsmead on July 26, 1714 in Milford, Connecticut. In the year following the death of his first wife, Eleazar began to court Mary Brinsmead, and the two married on November 21, 1747. Mary and Eleazar had five children together, including John, who would succeed his father as President of Dartmouth College. Little appears in the historical record about Mary, but many of the people who wrote to Wheelock, especially his Native correspondents who often lived with the family, referred to her warmly. In September 1770, Mary dismantled her longtime home in Connecticut, and travelled with her children to the Wheelocks' new home in the wilderness of New Hampshire. They rode in a coach sent over from England by John Thornton, accompanied by 30 Charity School students on foot. Eleazar, who had gone ahead to build housing for everyone, wrote a letter to Mary with many instructions about the move; the disposition of domestic animals, people, supplies; and the acquisition of money that suggests she was an able and trustworthy manager (manuscript 770510.1; this manuscript is not included in Occom Circle documents). She died in 1784 in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is buried in the Dartmouth College Cemetery.

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